Unofficial “Starblazer” revival Sentinel has been delighting readers for two years now, and enters the third with an action packed sci-fi tale concerning a group of psychic mercenaries (in space, natch) who go under the name of “Dark Matter”. Once again dreamed up by Sentinel writer and co-founder Alan Holloway, it sees the return of artist Ian Beadle, who made his full length comic debut with the unsettling fourth issue “Misty Moore” in 2020.
“Dark Matter” launched on Kickstarter today, quickly finding a third of it’s target in the first half an hour. We spoke to Ian, hoping for a look at just why this publication seems to go from strength to strength.
You’ve been with Sentinel from early on. What made you want to join the team?
I wanted to join the team as I liked the concept of what you and Ed were proposing,bringing back a digest sized comic plus I wanted to see if I had what it takes to carry a full issue rather than say a couple of pages for Zarjaz.
Your first issue was the eighties set schoolgirl horror Misty Moore. How hard was it having something like that as your first full comic?
Misty was a very steep learning curve for me and the first 10 pages or so I struggled to get into and even doubted I could do it. Drawing women and school girls wasn’t my strong point but wanted the challenge to push myself to grow as an artist. I didn’t enjoy it at first and drew a few pages with gritted teeth only for it to suddenly click one night when I veered from the script a bit and illustrated a page as I thought it would work better, confidence I think people call it .
You’re notorious for putting your own spin on certain pages and panels. Do the ideas come quickly to you?
The ideas for pages and panels do come quite quickly and often at 3 am as I struggle with sleep. I always visualise the script as if it were a movie with angles and effects if that makes sense, then figure out how best to put that onto a page. I love dark movies like 7even , love the grimness of it. I try not to copy things as I like to try and come up with something new, which is hard when being bombarded with crazy levels of illustrations/talent on social media.
After Misty Moore, what were you looking for in your next attempt?
After Misty and a short break of just doodling a few Dredds (laughs) my go to character for winding down , I contacted Alan and asked for a futuristic war script with no teenage girls in it. I wanted to see if I could illustrate something a bit more along the lines of a 2000ad type story. Growing up in the 70s and 80s that was the comic to get and used to dream of illustrating for them. That’s all I did back then was get comics and draw.
Do you think Alan delivered?
Alan delivered in spades on what I wanted and gave me free reins to come up with the look of the characters apart from a couple of brief descriptions. How he does it , Ill never know . Good story after good story each individual to the current issue. The new John Wagner lol. Without Alan some of us in the Sentinel group including me would never have had a chance to show people what we can do. Paul Spence did an amazing job on his debut issue , would not have looked out of place in the prog.
Did you enjoy creating the look of the team of characters?
I loved creating an original team and look. Straight from the off I made a conscious decision to not over complicate the suit design as I have to draw 64 pages of it lol. I’m a stickler for detail and would have made it too complicated to draw page after page. In the Dark Matter issue Ive done this too some extent with a walker design and erased some of it before sending it to Ed Doyle for lettering as I realized I had a page of them coming up further in the script. I tend to only read the script once then just a page at a time. Not a good technique really as its caught me out a few times. I
Which ones were you most happy with?
I cant pick my fave character design as i like them all but think Griff and Halo just have the edge. Barney was loosely based on Simon Le Bon . Actually there’s a character called Stegman and he’s based on my favourite musician/singer , when you see him you’ll know , hopefully.
What, for you, are the best things about being a Sentinel team member?
Being part of Sentinel for me has been a dream come true. Part of a group of like minded individuals that support each other have a laugh whilst also producing fantastic art and stories just for the love of it. We don’t pretend to be professionals and some are rough and ready , mine more so than some of the others but we tell a story and tell them well in my opinion. Its been great for me as I’ve learnt so much about how to illustrate better and tell a story. I’m hoping a few people will notice a difference between Dark Matter and Misty in terms of development, Id like to develop Dark Matter further with a possible short story for Griff or Halo as These characters for me could have dark pasts which is intriguing.
Do you think your style and technique has improved over the last two years ?
I do think my style and technique has improved but Ill leave others to judge that. Ive learnt how to use digital better and utilise some of its uses. With Dark matter I changed my style slightly and tried to be a bit more bolder with the pencil lines and shading as looking back at Misty it looks very rough to me , slightly unfinished. Im proud of it as it was my first proper comic really as before that Id only managed a couple of pages for Zarjaz
How do you rate your fellow sentinel artists?
I think they are all amazing , Paul I’ve mentioned , Ed is this freak of an artist he can knock out 10 pages while i’m still roughing one out. Andy Lambert would have been my favourite if he had stayed as the guys know I love Brian Bolland’s clean lines and Andy draws just like him. His few pages he did on the pack were amazing. Having said that the current artist now on it is very impressive and people will love it. To be fair to the group I love all of them as they bring there own individuality and style to the table making each issue unique.
Sentinel is made by comic fans of a certain age, do you think this is an advantage when it comes to what you’re producing?
I do to some extent as we are producing a format from an era when comics ruled. No social media, no games consoles and computers had just been invented for home use. We grew up on black and white art for the most part with 2000ad, Commando and the Spider-man digest comic. Seeing how those artists used to make the pages stand out with just shading still amazes me, 2000 ad especially. Ezquerra, Bolland, Hicklenton, O’Neil, John Higgins, Ian Gibson and Dave Gibbons, to name a few, were gods
If you could illustrate any character officially for one story, who would it be?
For me it would have to be Dredd , a serial killer story with lots of gruesome deaths and Dredd in a desperate way fighting for his own survival but still being a Bastard. Somewhere out in the cursed earth as it would give me a chance to draw some fantastic backdrops not just buildings. Always enjoyed his stories in the cursed earth , they seemed more interesting somehow.
Sentinel can be backed from £2.00 at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sentinelcomic/sentinel-comic-issue-11-dark-matter?ref=discovery&term=sentinel#
Here are the first seven pages of the comic:
Who is Mr Fluffles? Back Sentinel issue 11 “Dark Matter” to find out! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sentinelcomic/sentinel-comic-issue-11-dark-matter?ref=discovery&term=sentinel#